November 16th, 2011
04:49 AM ET
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (CNN) - The U.S. military presence will soon be expanding in Australia as part of a new joint strategic partnership.
Under the agreement announced during a joint news conference with President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard, 200 to 250 U-S Marines will be sent sometime in mid 2012 to Darwin and the northern region of Australia, in six month rotations.
They will conduct exercises and training.
Over the next several years the numbers are expected to climb to 2,500, comprising a Marine Ground Task Force.
China's looming military presence in the region is part of the reason for this stepped up U.S. activity, said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.
But at the news conference, President Obama insisted fear wasn't driving the enhanced military initiatives.
"The notion that we fear China is mistaken," Mr. Obama said.
Shortly after the announcement was made at the Australian parliament building, AFP reported the Chinese were skeptical of the deal and said it "may not be quite appropriate."
Asked to respond to China's apparent push-back, Rhodes told CNN, "It is not just entirely appropriate but an important step to dealing with the challenges of the future of the Asian Pacific region."